Software Subscriptions: Nice Convenience or Nasty Swindle?

Purple subscribe button

This curated blog post was inspired by, “The Worst-Kept Secret About QuickBooks Online” by Gene Marks, from Forbes ‘Quicker Better Tech’.

How we purchase and use  software has completely changed since the days of going out and purchasing a shrink-wrapped box with a DVD in it. Most of us can’t even remember doing that! Now we simply order and download our software online, directly from the company. But wait, enter the latest in software application convenience – monthly subscription services.

Enter the latest in software application convenience: monthly subscription services.

As small businesses move more and more to Cloud-based services, software companies are catching on quickly and offering their “software solutions” to any number of business needs, not as downloads, but as monthly subscriptions. For a reasonable monthly fee you are provided with the software from any device, security over your data, all the necessary updates completed automatically, and basic support. Sounds perfect, doesn’t it?! Well…

“There are certainly sound reasons why so many small businesses can benefit from the cloud. It relieves us of the burden of maintaining a network or an IT guy, we’re told. Cloud applications allow us to access our data now from anywhere, using just about any mobile device. Cloud applications are easier to setup and get operational. Support for the software can be offered more economically because everything’s being maintained by the manufacturer. Security is better. Integration with other cloud-based applications is easier. And, we’re told, monthly software payments help us with our cash flow.”

While it might seem more cost effective to sign on for a $26.95 monthly subscription fee than fork over $300 right this minute, when you run the numbers, you might be surprised. Software companies know that small businesses run on small cash flows, so appealing to our tightly-run budgets by offering small, monthly fees instead of asking for a large investment seems like a nice option! Of course, in actuality, software companies are really in it for themselves and their huge profit margins. They make way more money when you subscribe to their online products. In the long term, most cloud applications are significantly more expensive than purchasing an application outright. So paying that $26.95 per month, instead of $300 outright for software, adds up to $323 in just one year! And you’ll pay that every year, as most commercial software lasts 2 -3 years before purchasing an entirely new update is necessary.

In the long term, most cloud applications are significantly more expensive than purchasing an application outright.

One of the biggest selling points to cloud-based software subscriptions is that it eliminates the need for “IT guys” like me. However, your business still has desktops, servers, printers, routers and networks, right? So this infrastructure needs to be maintained by someone. Even if your network is cloud-based, you will still require overall security and protocol maintenance, device maintenance, and break-fix support.

Bottom Line
Do your math and figure out if a monthly subscription is really a cost savings, or if you are being brought along in the small business swindle so many software providers are banking big bucks from.

This has been a curated blog post. Read more about this topic in the original article, “The Worst-Kept Secret About QuickBooks Online” by Gene Marks, from Forbes ‘Quicker Better Tech’.

Posted in Uncategorized

Are Cloud Services Right for Your Business?

Technology cloud showing all things connected

As companies run out of storage space for their ever-growing company data, more and more are considering a move to “The Cloud” as a good option versus investing in new data storage hardware. Companies depend heavily on their ‘data centers’ to store, organize, process and disseminate large amounts of data. This component of a business is essentially the brain of your company, so pretty important stuff!

‘The Cloud’ or cloud computing makes storage and computing power available on demand, and is a term generally used to describe data centers available to many users over the Internet. Space in these data centers is reserved for exclusive use by customers who pay for this virtual storage space. In other words, you are renting space for your data to live.

Reducing your business’ dependency on internal hardware and the necessary maintenance of a data center sounds great, but there are several important considerations before moving your data storage to a Cloud service:

Will Cloud services work for you?

Taking time to plan is necessary before moving to the cloud. You need to start thinking about your existing data and future needs:

  • How do you need to segment your data and how it is used and accessed?
  • How do you see your data needs changing in the future?
  • Will you move all your current data to the cloud or leave existing data as “legacy data” internally, moving only new data for a fresh start?
  • How will you access the cloud and who will need access?
  • What are the limits or safeguards you require around data access?
  • Will cloud services meet your regulatory and compliance requirements?

It is important to have a good understanding of why you are transferring to the cloud, and if it will actually save you time and make you more productive. Getting a clear understanding of your current and future data needs will help you both determine if cloud storage is right for you, and what service provider will be best for your needs.

For example, cloud storage is not a great idea for engineering firms who are storing and accessing very large files of data. When their drawings and companion files are not stored locally, accessing them via cloud storage can be too slow.

Choosing your cloud provider

Many companies provide cloud storage services. Microsoft, Google and Amazon have come into the market, along with many technology companies. Some companies are even investing in building their own cloud. Different cloud services have limitations to what they can provide with regards to security, data backup, and data mapping.

Pricing models for cloud computing companies vary. Because this virtual server has to perform the same functions as your current data center, they are primarily based on operating systems, network, memory, and disk space requirements.

Compliance, Regulation and Security

If your organization has compliance requirements or regulatory bodies you answer to, your cloud service must meet those requirements. Issues include not only how secure your data in the cloud is, but the security of that data during transmission, transfer and sharing. You need to consider who needs to have access to your data internally, as well as how it is shared outside the business. The same safeguards that are set up for an internal data center must exist in a cloud service.

When you are using a virtual cloud service, data could conceivably be shared via a link, and this opens up serious security concerns. When you have designated login access to files it can be monitored, tracked, and reviewed. Just as you would have secure login for data access locally, you need these same security protocols for cloud storage.

Just as you would determine on a local data center who has access, your cloud service must have the same security measures. Additionally, there needs to be clear guidelines about who can make changes, or set preferences or other setting updates. If someone deletes data accidentally, is it gone forever or can it be recovered?

Do you transfer files or start fresh?

For some businesses with large amounts of existing data, essentially freezing that data and storing it locally as “legacy data” makes sense. For some companies, their proprietary software’s data mapping is not compatible with the data mapping provided by the cloud service. You of course need to consider how easily your data can be extracted, and migrated back and forth, from the cloud once it is transferred. Some commercial sales software programs and versions of QuickBooks aren’t compatible for Cloud transfer.

Organizing your Cloud

Just like you organize your files on your computer, you can’t just dump data into your Cloud – it needs to be organized into what is commonly called “sites” (similar to the Folder structure of Windows). Once it is transferred to the cloud, ongoing organization must be in place. When multiple people have access and are making changes to data, there needs to be a clear plan to maintain organization. Planning and implementation in the beginning, then there’s ongoing maintenance to maintain that structure.

Information Systems of Maine can help!

Once a decision is made to switch to the cloud services, who is going to interface with your current technology and needs, help with the transition, and provide ongoing maintenance of your new virtual data center? Your needs for IT support are ongoing, even when you move your data. While your cloud service provider can help with some of the tasks, they will not have the capacity to oversee the data transfers and set up ongoing data security and maintenance as carefully as someone who works for you.

Information Systems of Maine will work with you to assess your current data needs, what you hope to achieve with cloud storage, and where your future of data needs are heading. Moving to the Cloud is NOT a way to be able to stop worrying about your data, or doing backups. It’s really just a shift of where your data lives, but data management issues are still the same.

Some of the specific services we provide our cloud clients include:

Assessment – What are your data needs? Is a cloud service right for you? What cloud provider is right for your company?

Data Transmission – Taking your data in it’s current form and move it over into the new Cloud storage safely and effectively.

Data Organization – Setting up a structure so users can find and access data easily, add or edit data appropriately, and maintain the organization.

Ongoing Maintenance & Assessment – Making sure adequate security and backup is in place and working properly. Ensuring users are following data policies and procedures, data sharing is secure, settings (those boxes that get checked and unchecked) and structure of data is correct and retrievable.

Let us know if you would benefit from a FREE assessment of your data storage needs – we’d love to help you!

Posted in Uncategorized

Computer Networks Require Constant Monitoring

Graphic of how networks are connected

Networks have evolved dramatically. Gone are the days of a few devices, all in one building, connected via a series of wires and cords. Today’s networks are very complex, designed to accommodate numerous devices, operating from differing platforms and geographic locations, demanding high speed and dependable access in every moment.

What exactly is a network?

A network is a collection of devices that are connected to, and communicate with, one another. This communication may refer to the sharing of data and/or equipment. The design, both physically and digitally, of a network differs greatly based on the needs of the user. Further, the different components such as PC’s, printers and servers, mobile devices and remote access requirements, as well as software applications, differ considerably from business to business.

Networks need constant monitoring to stay on top of troubleshooting and security.

One thing remains consistent when we talk about business computer networks – the need for monitoring. Consistent and ongoing monitoring allows network managers to know what is going on in the network in any given minute, the state of any of the various devices and access points, and ensure that everyone’s access and data are secure.

Knowledge about the essentials of networking and the elements that make up a computer network helps with better network management and monitoring. Basically, network monitoring involves:

Network Monitoring includes:

  • Internet and Intranet Access
  • Security/Antivirus Software & Firewalls
  • Operating Systems in Use
  • Server Performance
  • Equipment – Age, Speed & Memory Capacity
  • Software Applications – Updates & Security Patches
  • Identifying Potential Issues

Network monitoring is the use of a system of procedures and protocols that constantly monitors a computer network for slow or failing components, and that notifies the network administrator in case of outages or other trouble. Network monitoring is an essential part of network management. Fundamentally, the goal of network monitoring is to keep tabs on the health of all the components comprising the network, and prevent unpleasant surprises whenever possible. A network manager wants to provide a trouble-free experience for the end-user, and ensure the best security is in place during the transmission of data.

Luckily, when you keep a close eye on your network, many of these issues do not pop up as surprises, allowing for fixes to occur at convenient times such as overnight or on weekends. Crashes and breaches become much less common, and disasters can be avoided.

The specific needs of a network may vary considerably, but what remains consistent is that all networks require monitoring, maintenance and a solid security protocol to be dependable.

Network Maintenance

A green light on a computer doesn’t mean that everything is in good operating order. Through monitoring, periodically network components require updates, fixes and replacement. A well-managed network has alerts set up to notify of impending problems, schedules routine updates, keeps up with new security patches, and plans for equipment replacement and upgrades.

Mistakes happen and breaks do occur, of course. An employee unwittingly clicks on an email scam, memory becomes corrupt or full, equipment fails. When breaches and fails do occur, troubleshooting and fixes can be far more timely on a managed network.

Network Maintenance includes:

  • Reviewing Server Logs
  • Updating Device Components & Software
  • Installing Security Patches
  • Maintaining strong firewalls
  • Commercial-grade antivirus
  • Consistent System & Data Backup

Security is Essential to Your Network

Everything related to and accessible from a network needs security! Your Firewall is the locked door to public internet, and must be kept up to date, reviewed to ensure correct reports firmware is installed, and watched for intruders. Hackers operate by finding holes in Firewall firmware, and then take advantage of this vulnerability. With consistent security monitoring and ongoing backup practices, a network can be made much more protected and safe from attackers.

The most common problem in networks is people clicking on something they shouldn’t.

Network Best-Practices

Most common issue causing HUGE problems in networks and devices is when people click on something they shouldn’t have and invite a perpetrator in. Hackers are depending on human error, basically, so don’t give them that opportunity. Always, always, always be VERY careful what you click on!

If you are concerned that your network might be at risk – please give us a call! We offer a free consultation to new clients to see how we might help you. We also offer ongoing support to clients through our Managed IT Services . Learn how we can start making your business run smoothly – 207.653.4143

Posted in Uncategorized

Wireless Networks: The Basics of a Good WiFi Network

WiFi Graphic

A business’ WiFi network is essential to ensure you can be responsive in today’s digital world. Employees require wireless options while traveling or working off-site, the layout of your physical plant may require wireless for online access, and your guests or customers may need WiFi to interact effectively with you. Your customers may even require WiFi as part of the services amenities you offer in the case of a hospitality business. Reliable WiFi has become a very important part of both business operations, and customer satisfaction. With many business computer components operating via a wireless network, there are several factors to consider as part of a business infrastructure to offer dependable and secure wireless access to your users.

A connected customer is a happy customer!

Important Considerations for Designing a Good Wireless Network Include:

  • Physical Environment – Where are we going to use our WiFi?
  • Application of the WiFi – How are we going to use our WiFi?
  • Number of Users – Who is going to use our WiFi?
  • Access – What are the best products for our WiFi?

When it comes to wireless networks, one size does not fit all. A healthcare facility or financial institution has very different security requirements of their WiFi than a coffee shop. A sprawling hotel built of cinder-blocks and steel beams needs far more access point considerations than a small real estate office. When wireless is used at your business, by employees or guests, your unique dependency on WiFi will determine the best network design for you.

When it comes to wireless networks, one size does not fit all.

We can break down WiFi requirements into these areas:

  • Stability
  • Security
  • Redundancy
  • Speed

Stability:

How important is it that your WiFi doesn’t go down?
It is crucial that you invest in good products at a price point to fit your budget. WiFi routers, antennas, and other access products need to fit the application. A marina or campground where conditions are harsh and spread out requires very different products than a local flower shop. Purchase proven technology that is durable, reliable, and offers ongoing service and support. Every WiFi layout should have the right number of access points, positioned in the right locations, to accommodate the necessary users. With good planning for the products you install and their positioning, you can ensure your WiFi is dependable and avoid disruptive downtime.

Security:

How sensitive is the information that will be transmitted across your WiFi?
If your wireless network transmits anything involving private information of your users or proprietary data for your business, it requires certain security measures. While users may understand “access at your own risk” at the local coffee shop, your customers in your waiting room or cashing out with you via credit information expect a level of security for their information. Encryption and protection of private information is always a priority, and for businesses that regularly handle sensitive data, essential. Part of WiFi network design potentially includes public versus Admin access, separate login areas for general public use as opposed to access where your private business data is stored. Having an open WiFi network is an invitation for malicious intent. Having a password protected WiFi, and potentially segmenting login access creates more secure wireless networks.

Redundancy:

How many users/devices need to access your WiFi and where?
Redundancy, having backup access to your wireless network, provides more consistent access for your users, and helps prevent the WiFi from crashing or “going down”. If you rent out a conference room at your facility, for example, your renter is dependent on your WiFi and it cannot go down. If your employees can’t work because the wireless is down, you lose a lot of time and money in productivity and potentially lost customers. Do you need a second way to get out if the first one goes down? Building in extra access points and antennas, that users can access when necessary, avoids bottlenecks, crashes and angry customers.

Think of your wireless network as a sprinkler system. It can only cover so much area, so the placement of the individual router devices is critical to getting good coverage. Some overlap guarantees coverage is consistent and dependable.

Speed:

How many people need to access your WiFi?
Five people accessing a WiFi network versus 500 is a big difference! The number of users that need to access your wireless at any given time, along with the amount of broadband your wireless runs off, determines the speed at which your WiFi operates. It is important that the right products, layout and design of the network, and the speed that you purchase from your service provider fits the demands of your WiFi network. If you can’t afford greater broadband, you can try installing additional antennas. Some businesses restrict bandwidth during certain periods of time, or to prevent slowing speed, but that is getting to be increasingly unacceptable by customers. Purchase the right amount of broadband, and install products that can handle the necessary bandwidth, so you have the necessary speed and avoid chokepoints.

Broadband is the minimum speed at which your connection will transfer information. Bandwidth is the amount of data that can transfer to and from your computer.

A slow internet is as bad a no internet.

Think of your business WiFi as it’s information super highway. How many on-ramps do you need to ensure that your users (drivers) can get on the highway when they needs to and not be bottlenecked. You need enough on-ramps so your users can cruise right onto the highway without being slowed down. We all appreciate a smooth commute!

If you need assistance designing a new wireless network or help getting your existing WiFi operating better – Information Systems of Maine can help. We are experts at designing and problem-solving all networking issues – connecting is what we do!

Posted in Business IT, Security, Wireless Networks

The ONE Thing You Need to Do to Stop Hackers

Laptop Email

Recently, I’ve had three clients who have had their email hacked, and, consequently, their personal information compromised. Even with iron-clad passwords and good security firewalls and server protection, our emails are at risk every day. One mistaken click and a hacker has access to your email – giving them access to any and all the financial and personal information you have online.

“Not Me!” you’re saying, “I know better than to click on suspicious emails!”

Most people think they know better. However, each of the hacking instances mentioned above were scam emails sent to recipients by a familiar company account that my client does business with. The hackers had managed to create emails that looked and sounded completely authentic. In one case, it was a pdf file of an updated invoice from a known associate – that seems legitimate, right? Unfortunately, the attached file had Malware attached to it, and once opened, the hacker had complete access to the email account. This in turn, allowed them access to every account associated with that email. Think about all the accounts you access using your email – your bank accounts, credit cards, shopping accounts, health and business vendors…the list is endless.

Fortunately, there is ONE simple step you can take to prevent account hacking.

When you walk up to an ATM with your card in hand, you need to do more than just stick your card in the machine to take out $200 in cash. You also need to put in your private PIN to gain access to your account. This is known as Dual-Factor Authentication – two steps must occur to allow access to your account. Well, a simple and easy step you can take to begin to better protect your email account right now is to add Dual-Factor, also known as Two-Factor Authentication, to gain email account access. As simple as getting a code texted to your mobile phone as the second step to logging into your account, this method stops hackers in their dirty little tracks and takes almost no extra time or effort.

Hackers cannot replicate Dual-Factor Authentication.

Use Dual-Factor Authentication
Dual-Factor Authentication, requires two steps (factors) for access to your account. When logging into an account, the software will require another unique step after username and password that only you know (think, first pet’s name or street you grew up on) or send your cellphone a text message with a one-time code to type in for your second verification. This extra layer of security helps to ensure it is you logging in, and protects your account from hacking software. Because hackers cannot replicate dual-factor authentication, it is the best way to shield your accounts.

To determine if Dual-Factor Authorization is available, simply go into the Settings menu in your email software program to see what your security setup options are. It is very likely in the “Password & Security” settings is an option for this extra layer of security.

Imagine what your customers would think if you have to inform them that their personal or financial information has been compromised.

Better Safe than Sorry
Sadly, we have entered the days when a username and simple password no longer protects your identity or financial information. Once a hacker has accessed your computer, your personal and financial information is easy picking, and viruses and ransomware can be planted. If going to these extra steps sounds like a pain in the neck, imagine having your identity stolen or your bank accounts wiped out. Imagine what your customers would think if you have to inform them that their personal or financial information has been compromised. Setting up these safeguards and taking a few extra seconds during login is well worth the effort!

To learn how to set up Dual-Factor Authentication on your online accounts, check out this article.

Posted in Business IT, Email, Security

Moving Your Business? Don’t Forget Your Virtual Business Needs!

Women in new work space

Anyone who has moved offices knows it’s a challenging project! Good preparation and organization is key, along with finding the right people to help you and being realistic about the time and energy it will require. When we move our physical business space, it’s very important to include a well thought out plan for moving our virtual business as well. The downtime involved in a moving a business is complicated by the need to keep computer systems operational and data accessible. Just as you wouldn’t leave your key piece of manufacturing equipment or top salesperson behind in your move, you mustn’t forget about your key business partner – your technology.

Businesses move locations for any number of reasons – outgrown space, lack of necessary features, the desire for modernization. Well, our business technology generally suffers similar circumstances. After years of serving the business well, digital storage space becomes overcrowded, hardware can’t keep up, and your technology can no longer accommodate the demands of today’s software and applications. Often times, upgrades don’t cost as much per year in capital expenditures as the cell phone bill! There is a lot of value in having upgraded equipment that can handle your current business and capacity to continue to grow with you.

Implementing your business moving plan involves careful and timely consideration of your technology.

Often the need for new or larger physical space means the need for upgraded technology as well. While everyone is getting a new desk, your server may be in need of an upgrade as well. Expanding your office space to accommodate your growing staff, may also translate to installing new fiber-optic cables and proper electrical circuitry to keep your network humming at top proficiency.

Don’t forget about these critical IT details:

  • Internet: Is your current internet speed sufficient? If you are upgrading equipment or experiencing slow data transfer, plan on installing new fiber-optic cables to accommodate higher speeds and larger data transfers. More about Wifi Installation.
  • Server versus Cloud Storage: Your data management infrastructure is critical, and an expanding business often needs to reassess server equipment and the way data is managed, protected and stored.
  • Firewall: If you’ve been experienced slow response times in your old place, and are moving to a location with upgraded cables and wiring, your Firewall may need an upgrade. If you new business technology blueprint is expanding, your old firewall may be a choke-point, holding up your new equipment and preventing your system from operating at top speed and functionality.
  • Antivirus & Backup Protection: Check that all your computers, devices and server are adequately secured with Antivirus protection, and protected by a regular backup mechanism. More about Backups.
  • Phones: Moving phones is no longer as simple as plugging them in the jack in your new office. Today’s businesses enjoy high functioning phones that allow for video conferencing and forwarding to cell phones or email when you are out of the office. A move is a perfect time to evaluate if your phone system needs an upgrade. More about Voip phone systems.
  • Warranties: All the new technology equipment you may be purchasing comes with a new set of warranties affording you greater dependability for several years. Be sure to register as necessary for all warranties on new equipment.

Before Your Move:

Have a qualified IT consultant work with you to determine how your technology infrastructure needs to change. They will make recommendations that may include upgrading to a commercial-grade firewall, updating computer, phone and other technology equipment and software licenses, and upgrading internet connections and installing fiberoptic cables.

During the Move:

Most businesses can’t afford to be completely “down” during a move. Your IT consultant will help you plan your transition so that your business can continue to run on your current platform during the move, move necessary data to a Cloud-based service while your equipment usage is suspended, and set up your new platforms usually overnight or a weekend for less business interruption. On Monday morning all your data is transferred over, the server and internet is up and running, and all your computers are set up and operating as they should!

Working with the right IT professional can ensure your move goes smoothly with minimal business interruption.

Information Systems of Maine works as project manager, managing technology upgrades and moves for clients. Serving basically as a general contractor, we work directly with other vendors such as the internet service provider, fiber-optic installation contractor, and product reps, to keep manage all facets of technology transitions. We take care of the details and technical issues, so our clients don’t have to!

We can advise on any upgrades and replacement hardware needed – new firewall, new server, new desktops, etc. We do not mark up any equipment we assist in purchasing – our goal is just to help you get the right equipment, quality and capabilities your business needs.

When your physical plant is making a move, your virtual business needs to make that move also. The same detailed planning, working with the right professionals, and determining what resources will make your move most successful for the long-term are all critical components.

Let us know if we can help you plan and implement your business move!

Posted in IT Services, Security, System Backup

Back to School – a Lesson in Cybersecurity 101

Image of people working at coffee shop

It’s hard to believe that it is back to school season! This means more devices, new accounts, and increased screen time for our young learners. Whether your kids are headed to grade school, college, or maybe you could just use a cybersecurity refresher course – we’re here to help!

Most everyone can use a refresher course in online security!

While cybersecurity is never anyone’s favorite subject, from elementary school activities through college educational requirements, devices and online resources are used on a daily basis. It is more important than ever that students are protected in their digital lives.

Here are some simple cyber-lessons for protecting yourself and your kids:

Password protect laptops and phones

Most devices come with password options that will require the user to enter a code or scan a fingerprint. This is a very important feature to enable, and remember to lock the computer or phone any time it’s left unattended.

If a laptop is often used in public locations such as libraries and coffee shops, invest in a cable lock that allows the computer to be physically locked down to keep it safe from sticky fingers.

Use strong passwords, never obvious ones such as birthdays or names; always use unique passwords. A great way to store passwords is through free applications such as LastPass which allows you to save passwords in their encrypted vault.

Use multi-factor authentication for email

Our emails are not only the hub of much of our communications, access to our email accounts can expose critical personal information and financial data. Email accounts should be for the owner’s eyes only, and the way to ensure that is to never share email passwords.

Users should also enable multi-factor authentication for every email account. This extra layer of security will require entering a password, and then additionally require a secondary access key such as a code or fingerprint. This way, even if someone gets into your email, they can’t get further without a secondary barrier unique to the owner.

Be careful of public Wi-Fi

We all use public wi-fi, and students using these open portals at school or other public places, need to realize that private, sensitive accounts such as banking can be exposed. It’s best to keep out of payment accounts or those containing personal information when using public wi-fi, and consider using a VPN so your browsing is done anonymously.

Keep software updated

Software updates seem to pop up constantly and can get annoying, but they shouldn’t be ignored. One of the critical things these updates are providing is the most current form of security patches, as well as other important fixes. Take the time to shut down devices regularly so that updates can install.

Backup all your devices consistently

We can’t say it enough – you won’t miss it until it’s gone! Theft, accidents and loss happens every day, so making sure your files and photos are backed up is crucial to being able to work uninterrupted. There are many cloud services that run automated backups to keep you protected seamlessly.

Review our top tips to start the school year off right:

  • Select unique passwords for each of your devices and accounts
  • Enable MFA for every account possible
  • Set your computer and phone to auto-lock and password access
Posted in Security

Protecting Your Personal Information Online

Security Warning, no SSL Certificate

Google is taking a strong stand on internet security.

Beginning in July 2018, Google Chrome will begin to flag all websites not operating with an updated SSL (security) certificate as “not secure” because the encryption of data between your computer and the websites server is not adequate. This is important for everyone who “surfs the net” and critical to those who share their personal information and payment data online. When you are on a website looking at information, someone could be looking back at you!

Warning of no SSL Certificate

Why does this matter to you?

Chrome’s newest version will warn users with an extra notification in the address bar when you attempt to visit a non-secure site. Websites with that are properly encrypted will display a green lock icon and “Secure” sign. If you visit an unsecured website, you receive some type of warning in red: [images]

Keep Your Info SafeSecurity Warning, no SSL Certificate

It’s not uncommon for people to ignore basic internet security practices. We all know better, but we don’t think much about it until we get burned. Then, of course, it’s too late. Websites that are deemed “non secure” or “not private” don’t encrypt communication between you (the user) and their website. This means any communication (your clicks through the site, entering your email for a newsletter subscription, buying something) may not be secure and your interactions with the website can be hacked. It’s not a great idea to visit websites that are not secure, it’s a very BAD idea to enter any personal information or payment data into one. The internet can be a dangerous place, take basic measures to keep yourself protected. While this is heavy-handed of Google Chrome, it is a good idea for everyone.

One of my colleagues and my own website developer, Milly Welsh, published this helpful blog for more information.

Posted in Security

3 Keys to Keeping Computers Working Properly

Your business success begins with the right IT plan.

If you walked into your office tomorrow and all the computers were gone – would it impact your ability to conduct business? Most likely!

Now, imagine yourself going into your dentist’s office for an exam and the whole room is filthy. The floor is dirty, the counters look grimy, even the exam tools are disheveled! What would you think? You’d probably hightail it out of there!

Well, when your customers, or potential customers, interact with you their experience is very important to the success of your business. If your customers find your website to be super slow or “down” or, worse, “Not Secure”, then you are displaying a sloppy business. If their personal data is not safe with your company, or you lose their order information, you just tossed the proverbial bucket of dirty water over your business image. Luckily, the steps to clean it up are pretty straight forward!

How important is your computer system?

How important is your computer system?

When it comes to your company’s IT needs, your focus should be on:

  • Stability
  • Security
  • Protection

Stability

If you depend on computers to conduct your business, process customer information, or manage your finances, you must have a stable, dependable network to operate. This includes all the equipment in your network: computers (laptops and desktops), networked printers, and possibly your server and/or phones. Most employees spend their days either looking at a screen to retrieve data or input data, so if things go down, productivity goes down.

When you have a Capital Investment Plan and Budget, with computer equipment, hardware and software, being a dedicated line-item, you are making a smart move toward Stability. For less than the cost of a cell phone, you can be saving monthly, planning for the necessary capital investments to keep your computer systems running smoothly.Putting money back into your business

Equipment should always be checked regularly to ensure it is running properly. This includes keeping an eye on older hardware, maintaining software updates, and keeping all your files and records backed up regularly. Your business is as healthy as the system that runs it!

Security

There are many security protocols that go unattended in businesses. Your equipment is only as secure as it’s latest update and security patch. Once these important updates are ignored, your equipment, software and business records are at risk for security breaches and hackers. This type of exposure can cause system crashes that cripple your ability to do business, ransomware demands that take your equipment and files hostage, and exposure of customer data to dangerous hackers and spyware. Operating system updates, maintaining current antivirus protection, conducting disk defragmentation, and internal machine cleaning all help a computer operate optimally and safely. Vigilance about security is becoming increasingly more important as the digital world of business continues to expand.

Read our blog on Security Measures

Protection

Surprisingly, one of the most neglected IT steps is maintaining a consistent, regular backup process to protect all your data. Computer hardware can fail, data can become corrupted, computers can be damaged or lost. If your data has not been backed up recently you’re out of luck, and facing time-consuming and possibly impossible restoration. You want to make sure you can recover your files and data as quickly as possible.

Typically, backup systems combine an on-site physical backup such as an external hard-drive (disks and flash-drives are not stable enough to be considered backups), and an off-site backup. Nowadays, the easiest form of backup is a cloud-based system. There are options for file-only backup, as well as image-backup which allows you to restore your computer and files within minutes, exactly as it is setup.

Cloud Service Backup Illustration

We ask clients, “if you lost the last 60 days of your computer data would it make a difference?” If the answer to this is that you wouldn’t sleep for a week, then take the very manageable step of making sure you have a good backup system.

The most expensive IT is cheap IT.

Computer systems have become an essential equipment component of most businesses these days. We depend on them to get our daily work done – from keeping track of orders and accounting, to interacting with our customers, to getting paid for our services. Pretty critical stuff! When you neglect necessary upkeep of your systems, and bury your head in the sand that something bad could happen, you are exposing yourself and your staff, your business, and your customers to considerable risk.

Who is paying attention to your IT needs?

The best way to assure that your computer equipment has all these necessities – stability, security and protection – is to have planned, scheduled IT Maintenance. For many businesses, an in-house IT professional is not realistic, but these services are perfect for outsourcing.

With Managed IT Services, a fixed monthly cost assures that your computers and network are being monitored and maintained on a daily basis. Information Systems of Maine can design, build, and look after your systems to ensure optimal health and reliability, every day. Your customized Managed Services Plan allow us to keep a close eye on your equipment so you can avoid problems before they arise, and plan for necessary replacements and upgrades.

Technology cost are significant for businesses, and the cost of downtime if something goes wrong is even higher. Think how much more productive and cost efficient your business could be if you could avoid technology surprises! We customize our Managed IT Services to fit the specific needs of your business – so you pay only for what you need. Learn more about our Managed IT Services

Posted in Managed IT Services, Security, System Backup

Warning: Deleted Doesn’t Mean Gone

Think you safely deleted all your personal information off your old phone or computer before recycling it? The answer may shock you!

Here is an important warning before selling or recycling your old phone, tablet or computer. If you think deleting your bank and tax information, credit card shortcuts, passwords, emails and photos was enough – think again. Simply deleting files from a device by sending them to the trash and emptying the trash, doesn’t mean those files are not still on in your memory card and easily accessible to anyone with access to the old device.

Any person who inherits or buys your used device can easily recover your personal files, data, and access links as easily as downloading free software off the internet. The only way to ensure your data is truly deleted from the phone, tablet or computer is to buy a program that truly deletes all data and certifies to you (yes, with an actual certificate of guarantee) that it has been entirely removed from the device. Your other option? Take a drill to the old computer’s memory platters before letting them out of your possession.

In a recent study, 46% of computers and phones sold online still contained personal data.

Protect your personal information:

http://www.nbcnews.com/video/how-supposedly-deleted-personal-data-can-come-back-to-haunt-you-767177795918

Posted in Uncategorized